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Concern over RBL’s closing of casino accounts: Bharath seeks talks with BATT

Saturday, May 10, 2014
Vasant Bharath

Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said he wants to meet with the Bankers Association of T&T (BATT) to discuss the decision by Republic Bank Ltd (RBL) to close accounts held by private members clubs. In a television interview yesterday morning, Bharath said while the bank’s action is understandable, it causes concern. 


“I have to say that from the Ministry of Trade’s position, it’s a little bit precarious because we would now want to understand who will bank those casinos. It’s a discussion certainly I have to have with the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago because many of these businesses are legitimate businesses. “The question is where the source of funds and the difficulty is placing the source of funds that created the problem.”


The minister said significant actions related to anti-money laundering legislation and compliance measures imposed on banks to determine source of funds are causing banks to evaluate whether the cost of compliance outweighs the benefits of securing private members clubs accounts. He said unless the relevant legislation is in place, it will be difficult and costly for banks to trace the source of funds. Finance Minister Larry Howai said he has not been given any specific reason for RBL’s decision. 


“I am aware of the fact that they have given notice. I think the notice goes until the end of this month and there are some attempts now to enter into some kind of a dialogue between the owners of these private members clubs and Republic Bank with respect to how best they might be able to deal with the concerns that the bank has with respect to whatever the compliance issues are. 


“Part of the banker-client confidentiality is that they were not in a position to give me specifics on what might be specific breaches by individual private members clubs but they did indicate in general that it was a compliance issue.” RBL said in a statement on Thursday that it will no longer service and maintain the accounts of private members clubs/casinos because of the significant impact that industry has on the bank’s compliance requirements.


Private members clubs are among the listed businesses required to submit reports to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) about any suspicious financial transactions. Legal representative for the Private Members Clubs’ Association Christlyn Moore said about three weeks ago the clubs began receiving letters from RBL advising that their accounts were being closed. The  accounts will be closed by month end.


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